BEIRUT: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday launched a thinly veiled attack on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), accusing outside powers of trying to deal a blow to the Lebanese resistance.
Ahmadinejad made his remarks during a rally held in his honor in Beirut’s southern suburbs, where Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addressed thousands of supporters via video link prior to the Iranian president’s speech, denying any Iranian ambitions to dominate the Middle East.
Ahmadinejad, who is on a two-day official visit to Beirut, received a warm welcome upon his arrival as tens of thousands of Hizbullah supporters lined the streets and waved Iranian flags. They showered his motorcade with rice and flowers on its way from the airport to the presidential palace, where he met his Lebanese counterpart.
During the rally, Ahmadinejad said “friends were being framed” for the murder of “a friend and a patriotic man,” a reference to former Premier Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination.
Endorsing Hizbullah’s position for the first time in public, Ahmadinejad said accusations being fabricated aimed to instigate strife among the Lebanese as to empower Israel, a reference to reports that the STL’s indictment is set to implicate Hizbullah members in the murder.
The STL has been the focus of controversies between March 14 parties and Hizbullah since the latter condemned the tribunal as an Israeli project aimed against the resistance in Lebanon.
“In Lebanon, a friend and a patriotic man was assassinated. They are trying to sow strife and conflict … by manipulating the media to accuse our friends and fulfill their aims in the region,” Ahmadinejad said.
In a sharp tone, Ahmadinejad warned Israel against sparking new regional conflicts in the Middle East, saying it could signal the end of the Jewish state.
He also accused Israel of imprisoning four Iranian diplomats abducted in Beirut in 1982, stressing that Iran held proof the diplomats were still alive as he demanded their release.
Ahmad Motevasselian, Seyed Mohsen Mousavi, Kazem Akhavan and Taqi Rastegari of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut were abducted in 1982.
“Lebanese brothers and sisters, your affairs and the affairs of the Iranian people are one. Therefore we are present with you in one front. The glory and development of Lebanon is for us as well,” he concluded.
The Iranian president’s speech followed a short address by Nasrallah via video link on a giant screen that was setup at the Raya stadium.
“We are proud of our deep belief in Wilayat al-Faqih, the just, the wise and the courageous,” Nasrallah said, but added that “Iran has no particular project since its project in Lebanon is that of the Lebanese while its project for the Arab region is that of Arab states.”
Several Lebanese parties have repeatedly voiced concerns over Hizbullah’s loyalty to Wilayat al-Faqih, a system of governance that confers on a supreme religious leader primacy over political power, arguing that Hizbullah sought to serve the interest of Iran at Lebanon’s expense.
“Iran always supported us and still never asked us at any point to adopt a certain position gave us orders but rather we were the one to ask Iran and make demands,” he added.
Later in his speech, Nasrallah stressed that Iran was a guarantee to resistance movements in the region that counter Israel and the US but refuted “publicized delusions” that the Islamic Republic was developing a confrontational scheme against Arab states.
Nasrallah also echoed Ahmadinejad’s calls for Israel to disappear.
“President Ahmadinejad is right when he says Israel is illegitimate and should cease to exist,” Nasrallah said.
“The Zionist regime will continue its downfall and no power can save it because of the resistance in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Turkey, Iran and the rest of the region,” he vowed.
During an honorary dinner banquet organized by Speaker Nabih Berri at his residence in Ain al-Tineh following the rally, the speaker highlighted Iran’s willingness to unconditionally equip the Lebanese Army.
Berri added that Iran’s support to the resistance supported all Lebanese rather than Shiites. “Iran’s support to the axis of resistance is defending the Arab and Palestinian rights,” he said.